My republican spirit, however, boiled up a little last Monday, when I had to petition Mons. de Calonne for the restoration of some trifles detained in the custom-house at Calais. His politeness, indeed, and the sight of others performing like acts of humiliation, reconciled me in some measure to the drudgery of running from subaltern to subaltern, intreating, in pathetic terms, the remission of a law which is at last either just or unjust; if just, no felicitation should, methinks, be permitted to change it; if unjust, what can be so grating as the obligation to solicit?
We mean to quit Paris to-morrow; I therefore enquired this evening, what was become of our aerial travellers. A very grave man replied, “Je crois, Madame, qu’ils sont deja arrives ces Messieurs la, au lieu ou les vents se forment[D].”
[Footnote D: I fancy, Ma’am, the gentlemen are gone to see the place where all the winds blow from.]
Sept. 25, 1784.
We left the capital at our intended time, and put into the carriage, for amusement, a book seriously recommended by Mr. Goldoni; but which diverted me only by the fanfaronades that it contained. The author has, however, got the premium by this performance, which the Academy of Berlin promised to whoever wrote best this year on any Belles Lettres subject. This gentleman judiciously chose to give reasons for the universality of the French language, and has been so gaily insolent to every other European nation in his flimsy pamphlet, that some will probably praise, many reply to, all read, and all forget it. I will confess myself so seized on by his sprightly impertinence, that I wished for leisure to translate, and wit to answer him at first, but the want of one solid thought by which to recollect his existence has cured me; and I now find that he was deliciously cool and sharp, like the ordinary wine of the country we are passing through, which having no body, can neither keep its little power long, nor even use it while fresh to any sensible effect.
The country is really beautiful; but descriptions are so fallacious, one half despairs of communicating one’s ideas as they are: for either well-chosen words do not present themselves, or being well-chosen they detain the reader, and fix his mind on them, instead of the things described. Certain it is that I had formed no adequate notion of the fine river called the Yonne, with cattle grazing on its fertile banks: those banks not clothed indeed with our soft verdure, but with royal purple, proceeding from an autumnal daisy of that colour that enamels every meadow at this season. Here small enclosures seem unknown to the inhabitants, who are strewed up and down expansive views of a most productive country; where vineyards swell upon the rising grounds, and young wheat ornaments the valleys below: while clusters of aspiring poplars, or a single walnut-tree